Devon Wildlife Trust The swallow, or 'barn swallow', is a common summer visitor, arriving in April and leaving in October. It builds mud and straw nests on ledges, often in farm buildings and outhouses, or under the eaves of houses. Swallows are widespread and common birds of farmland and open pasture near water. They are agile fliers, feeding on flying insects while on the wing. Before they migrate back to their wintering grounds in Africa, they can be seen gathering to roost in wetlands, particularly reedbeds.

How to identify

The swallow is a glossy, dark blue-black above and white below, with a dark red forehead and throat, and a black band across its chest. It has a very long, forked tail. Often spotted perching on wires in small numbers.


RSPB Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They are widespread breeding birds in the Northern Hemisphere, migrating south in winter.

Swallow numbers in the UK have fluctuated over the last 30 years with pronounced regional variation in trends. 


Devon Birds Search the Devon Birds website for recent sightings of Barn Swallows in Devon.  


Devon Biodiversity Record Centre Submit your sightings of Barn Swallows and other species in Devon (breeding range colour altered to bright green)


National Biodiversity Network Hirundo rustica

The NBN Atlas is a collaborative project that aggregates biodiversity data from multiple sources and makes it available and usable online. It is the UK’s largest collection of freely available biodiversity data. 


Wikipedia The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. It is a distinctive passerine bird with blue upperparts and a long, deeply forked tail. It is found in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. In Anglophone Europe it is just called the swallow; in Northern Europe it is the only common species called a "swallow" rather than a "martin".

There are six subspecies of barn swallow, which breed across the Northern Hemisphere. Four are strongly migratory, and their wintering grounds cover much of the Southern Hemisphere as far south as central Argentina, the Cape Province of South Africa, and northern Australia. Its huge range means that the barn swallow is not endangered, although there may be local population declines due to specific threats.

The barn swallow is a bird of open country that normally uses man-made structures to breed and consequently has spread with human expansion. It builds a cup nest from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feeds on insects caught in flight. This species lives in close association with humans, and its insect-eating habits mean that it is tolerated by humans; this acceptance was reinforced in the past by superstitions regarding the bird and its nest. There are frequent cultural references to the barn swallow in literary and religious works due to both its living in close proximity to humans and its annual migration. The barn swallow is the national bird of Austria and Estonia. 


eBird A fairly large, colorful swallow. Usually easy to identify with its long, forked tail and dark rump. Iridescent navy-blue above with a rich orange throat and forehead. Underparts vary across range, from bright buffy-orange to whitish. Occurs in any open habitat, especially large fields and wetlands. Often seen foraging in flocks, sometimes mixed with other species of swallow. Typically nests close to human habitation; builds a muddy cup nest in a barn or under a dock. Listen for dry, scratchy “svit svit” calls. Note head and breast pattern and tail length to help separate from various similar species in Asia and Australia (e.g., Welcome Swallow, Hill Swallow, Pacific Swallow).

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